Several leaders from Asia in attendance . . .
The World Economic Forum (WEF) opened its annual week-long conference on Monday with the theme ‘a crucial year to rebuild trust.’ Rather than meeting in-person in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos, pandemic-related restrictions have the more than 1,500 global leaders meeting virtually, including 25 heads of state, 600 global CEOs, and other business, social, and cultural leaders. Notable this year is the presence of several leaders from Asia, including China’s President Xi Jinping, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, and Singapore’s President Lee Hsien Loong.
COVID, climate, geopolitics take centre stage . . .
This year’s seven themes of the ‘Davos Agenda’ – save the planet; fairer economies; tech for good; society and future of work; better business; health futures; and, beyond geopolitics – are broad and offer a considerable COVID focus. Of the Asian heads of state that have spoken thus far, President Xi focused on the Global South and worries of decoupling, Prime Minister Modi raised India’s vaccine diplomacy, and President Moon proposed some form of profit-sharing to offset rising inequality wrought by the pandemic. Prime Minister Suga and President Lee are set to address the WEF tomorrow.
‘Davos in Asia’ planning still in the works . . .
Even though the Davos meeting is virtual this year, WEF’s founder Klaus Schwab maintains that virtual meet-ups cannot replace in-person relationship-building and vows to hold a follow-up ‘Davos in Asia’ face-to-face session in Singapore from May 13-16, 2021. The city-state is seen as one of the few places with the potential to pull off such an international event during the pandemic. By hosting, Singapore could be pursuing a dual agenda of luring business from Hong Kong and setting itself up as a meeting ground for international organizations. But if anything goes awry in May, it could turn Davos in Asia into a COVID superspreader event.
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